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Dr. Shirley L. Thomson Award for Young Curators

〈〈  To make a donation download PDF  〉〉

The Dr. Shirley L. Thomson Award for Young Curators is a testament to the legacy of an intrepid champion of the visual arts in Canada.  As a leader and mentor, Shirley recognized and fostered excellence in others and held herself to the highest standards in everything she did. She particularly embraced young people who aimed for excellence in their creative and scholarly pursuits.

The purpose of this legacy fund is to provide high quality, enhanced learning experiences in art museums and galleries for young graduates to prepare them for curatorial careers in the visual arts. Proposals may be formal, mentored internships or may be informal projects or a combination of both. Innovation combined with hands-on learning opportunities will be a key consideration.

Let your imagination soar for the best way to enhance the career development of one or more future curators. We are purposely setting as few rules as possible. Projects are not subject to a minimum or maximum duration: they must simply focus on enhancing young graduates' learning experiences to prepare them for curatorial careers in the visual arts. We want to encourage your imagination to seize this unique opportunity.

The award, up to $15,000, may be for one project or split between 2 proposals based on their objectives and financial models.

The Dr. Shirley L. Thomson Young Curators Award will be awarded each year, at the discretion of a jury of professionals, for a museum, art gallery, aboriginal cultural centres or artist-run centre in Canada to provide practical skills development in a professional and supervised setting. The curatorial intern(s) will also benefit by participating in career exchanges and networking opportunities at the Canadian Museums Association's National Conference (see specifics below).

This curatorial opportunity has been made possible thanks to the generous support of artists, collectors and other donors who share Shirley L.Thomson's passions and vision, who admired her determination, and who have benefitted from her great contributions. Funds were raised by the Museums Foundation of Canada and program administration will be through the Canadian Museums Association.

Donations to this legacy fund are still being accepted and are still coming in.  All are eligible for tax deductible receipts

Donations can be made by cheque to the Museums Foundation of Canada,
280 Metcalfe Street, Suite 400,
Ottawa ON K2P 1R7.
The Foundation's charitable number is 881208243RR0001.


The curatorial intern must be:

  • a Canadian citizen or permanent resident legally entitled to work in Canada;
  • not more than 30 years old;
  • a recent graduate (within the past 24 months) from a museum studies program and/or arts studies, curatorial, conservation, arts administration or related program from a recognized university or college or other recognized program (not necessarily in Canada);
  • willing to commit to the full duration of the internship;
  • free from another full-time job at the time of the program;
  • Be available to participate in the next national CMA conference and make a presentation on its project/experience (financing required in the proposal of candidates).

Recognition (Funding)

The Museums Foundation of Canada will pay up to $15,000 towards the creation of the internship(s), including intern stipend, any travel, materials, and expenses to attend the CMA National Conference and other approved expenses.


The Award is presented every two years.

To be determined.


All applications will be juried by a panel of experienced and senior museum curatorial professionals in the visual arts field. Members of the jury are not eligible to be applicants or to be in the employment of an institution that applies to the Award.

Interns are recruited by the approved employers. Employers must recruit for positions through a fair and open selection process (i.e. open competitions and unbiased adjudication of eligible candidates—see guidelines above). In addition to the museum/ art gallery's own recruitment tools, the internship opportunities must be posted on the CMA's online Job Board (free access).

Applications will be accepted only from museums, art galleries, artist-run centres and aboriginal cultural centres which meet the following criteria:

  • Must be a not-for-profit institution in Canada engaged in whole or part in the visual arts.
  • Demonstrated commitment to the visual arts (historical or contemporary) and to high professional standards in museum practice.
  • Must be a CMA institutional member in good standing, and active in the museum or the artist-run center profession.
  • The institution must have a significant research capacity in the visual arts and commitment to curatorial development.
  • Able to provide the intern(s) with necessary encouragement, supervision, work plan, orientation, training, mentorship and support during the internship.
  • Participate in the award promotion to ensure dissemination of this project (pre-, during and post-internship).
  • Must use open and fair recruitment methods to select a candidate meeting the eligibility criteria, and meet all applicable employment laws.
  • Ensure the participation of the intern at the CMA National Conference (please include this in your budget request, regardless if the project is over or not by that date; the 2020 CMA National Conference.
  • Successful applicants may not reapply in the succeeding year.

All decisions by the jury will be final.

How to apply

Complete and submit the nomination form to The form requires the following information:

  • Project proposal: Include the working title and a summary of the proposal.
  • The project must be clearly defined (objectives, methodology, measurable outcomes) as well as the job description and work plan.
  • A comprehensive budget proposal is required, showing the funding from the Shirley Thomson Award (maximum $15,000) and other sources of support (confirmed or proposed must be indicated). The applicant's commitment to raise additional resources/funding to increase the value of this internship will be taken into consideration but will not be an exclusive factor. Quality of the learning experience will be the guiding principle.
  • State the duration and location of the curatorial development project, the number of young curators engaged if more than one, travel and other costs. There is no minimum or maximum duration required but priority will be given to applications that can expand this work place mentorship in creative and innovative ways.
  • Level of mentoring, orientation and supervision during the internship. The internship should have appropriate supervision and professional support (training, coaching, encouragement, mentoring, follow-ups, performance evaluation, etc.)
  • The name and curriculum vitae of the key supervisor/mentor/project leader must be included.
  • Skill assessment and development plan (action plan to help support transition to job market during and after internship).
  • Ability for the intern to make professional contacts during the internship.
  • Evidence of the professional standards, and commitment of the museum.
  • Recruitment: must demonstrate a balanced selection and interview process.
  • Complete estimates and coherent justification.
  • Employer's financial and in-kind contribution.
  • Level of museum's involvement in CMA and the professional community.
Project Proposal form — PDF              Project Proposal Form — Word